Editor’s Note: If the mayor wants to restore his damaged credibility, he should start by naming DWP Committee President Soledad Garcia to the Board of Commissioners of the DWP so ratepayers will have a voice in policy.
Evidence is mounting that the ever-cautious City Council has figured out that the natives are restless and requiring some lip service and posturing — if not actual action on policies
The same cannot be said for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
He continues to run — from the issues and for higher office — but he can’t hide. He more than anyone is responsible or the catastrophes of overspending on public employees salaries, runaway development, the visual blight of electronic billboards and the soaring rates, fees and taxes that provided little or no benefit to the public.
In the KCAL Channel 9 interview with Political Reporter Dave Bryan broadcast last week — properly called “revealing” at the end by a news anchor — the mayor smiles and spins with his usual song and dance without giving the slightest hint that he’s going to turn around and put the public interest first instead of the special interests and his own political interests.
The budget deficit, already at $530 million and rising at the rate of $70 million a month and getting far worse in the years ahead, affords Villaraigosa the opportunity to face up to the scope of the problem. Instead, he is looking to mortgage the city’s future by raiding special funds, selling off parking revenue for decades to come, imposing more fee increases, cutting services and hoping he can squeeze some money out of the unions he’s given huge increases to.
The biggest beneficiary of his sweetheart deals has been the IBEW which virtually runs CIty Hall’s favorite cash cow, the DWP. Raises of up to 6 percent on top of salaries far higher than other city workers or private utility workers get for the same jobs have been paid for with massive increases in water and power rates.
Yet another water rate increase likely will be imposed this week to protect the DWP’s revenue stream, this one in the name of a water shortage. The rate hike has nothing to do with water conservation, which DWP is trying to do something about 19 months too late.
It is simply another effort to gouge money from the middle class even as the pool of people getting reduced rates is being nearly doubled without having to show proof of any sort that they are actually poor and need the help.
The City Council disapproved the hike last week, citing the lack of any kind of public process for debating the hikes, its ineffectiveness as a conservation measure and the arbitrariness of the rate structure among many other reasons.
Even as they were making a stand — under considerable pressure from the community activists who defeated the Measure B solar energy plan — the council gave indication they will rush the water rate hike through this week.
There is no justification for the rate hike. Increases already are being imposed for the added cost of buying water from the Metropolitan Water District. Instead of keeping revenue neutral, the mayor and council need to demand costs be reduced which would require the IBEW to actually join the mayor’s call for “shared sacrifice.”
Toward the end, the mayor has the chance to make a bold statement that he’s going to change direction during the crisis and live up to the promises he’s made time after time to be the mayor of all the people.
Wally Knox has resigned as a DWP Commissioner to take a well-paid post as a community liaison for the Port of Los Angeles — or is that Pork of Los Angeles. This gives the mayor a chance to reverse himself in his opposition to a RatePayer Advocate within the DWP.
Soledad Garcia, president of the DWP’s Neighborhood Council Committee, who formed the DWP Committee as an independent advocacy group out of frustration with resistance to public participation, is the right choice to take a position on the DWP Commission.
She knows DWP operations better than anyone now on the board and is a passionate advocate for ratepayers.
The mayor has made sure that business, the Valley, minorities and the environment are represented.
Is it about time for the ratepayers to have a voice?
We’ll soon know if the council actually will make a stand for the public and whether the mayor is tough enough to reverse course and give the ratepayers a chance to have an advocate for water and power policies that serve the city and not the union and contractors.